Health Insurance Cover

Questions (240)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

240. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Health if he has increased the public health budget to allow for the 75,000 persons that will move across to the public system as they cancel their health insurance policies this year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45372/13]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The number of people insured continues to decline since its peak at almost 2.3 million at the end of 2008. At the end of June 2013, 2.06 million people held private health insurance, which represents a reduction of 64,000 from end June 2012. The reduction in numbers has occurred in all age groups, but particularly in the 18 to 29 age group and it is unlikely that people in this age category will have a severe impact on public health services. Conversely, the loss of younger insured adults from the private health insurance market has a strong impact on inter-generational solidarity which underpins our community rated health insurance market.

The gross current budget for the Health Sector for 2014 is €13,263m, a reduction of €361m on the 2013 allocation of €13,624m. A total of €666m in health savings measures have been identified in the context of the Health Estimates to meet the overall health expenditure ceiling reduction of €361m, Programme for Government commitments of €57m, and health service pressures of €248m.

The level of health services to be delivered within the available funding will be set out in the Health Service Executive's 2014 National Service Plan. Given the demands on the health service, in particular from demographic and other service pressures, it is clear that the preparation of the 2014 Service Plan will be a challenging exercise. It remains a priority of my Department and the HSE to focus on improving the way services are organised and delivered, and to reduce costs so as to minimise any negative effect on service provision.

Medical Card Data

Questions (241)

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

241. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Health the number of medical cards and general practitioner visit cards that have issued to persons in County Cork each year from 1999 to date in 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45384/13]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The information sought by the Deputy is not readily available. However, I have asked the Health Service Executive to supply this information to me and I will forward it to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Health Services Provision

Questions (242)

Clare Daly

Question:

242. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Health further to a parliamentary question tabled on 17 October 2013 the number of children and the number of visits children had to the urologist in St. George's per year over the past five years; if a lower starting salary and the fact that the position is split between Crumlin and Temple Street has acted as a barrier to persons applying for the urologist position. [45405/13]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

As this is a service matter, I have asked the HSE to respond directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Equipment

Question No. 244 answered with Question No. 229.

Questions (243)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

243. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health the reason a faulty fire alert system in St. Finan’s Hospital in Killarney has resulted in 62 call-outs since the start of last year because the system is frequently tripping; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45409/13]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

As this is a service matter this question has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Question No. 244 answered with Question No. 229.

Cochlear Implants

Questions (245)

Dara Calleary

Question:

245. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Health if he will ensure that funding for bilateral cochlear implants is allocated in the 2014 Health Service Executive service plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45422/13]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

Beaumont Hospital is the centre for delivering Ireland's national cochlear implant programme, with surgical provision for patients under six years being carried out in the Children's University Hospital Temple Street. Since the programme commenced in 1995, over 700 patients have received cochlear implants. Beaumont Hospital carried out ninety cochlear implants in 2012 (42 children and 48 adults). The routine practice in Ireland, so far, has been to implant one side only.

It is now considered best practice worldwide that children should have the option of bilateral implants, and this is reflected in the recommendation of the report of the National Review of Audiology Services which was carried out by the HSE in 2009. The aim of that Review was to examine the services provided to children and adults nationwide, and to formulate a national plan for the services. Its report was published by the HSE in 2011 and provides the blueprint for the planning, development and delivery of HSE audiology services. The Report recommended continued ring-fenced support for the cochlear implant programme but at levels which allow for simultaneous bilateral implantation for children.

The HSE has developed a proposal, in liaison with Beaumont Hospital, to introduce a bilateral cochlear implant programme in Ireland. In doing so, the HSE has engaged with many stakeholders. Introduction of bilateral cochlear implantation is expected to involve additional staff, equipment and capital works. The resources required will be considered in the context of the Health Estimate for 2014, announced on 15 October last, and the development of the HSE's National Service Plan 2014.

Long-Term Illness Scheme Coverage

Questions (246)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

246. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Health if a drug (details provided) will be made available under the long-term illness scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45429/13]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

Enbrel is licensed for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. However, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis are not conditions covered by the Long Term Illness Scheme.

Prescription Charges

Question No. 248 answered with Question No. 236.

Questions (247, 265)

Billy Timmins

Question:

247. Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health if, in view of the hardship and distress that the announced increase in prescription charges for medical card holders is causing, if the monthly charge will be capped at €10; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45433/13]

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Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

265. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health the revenue raised from the prescription charge for each of the years since its introduction [45506/13]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 247 and 265 together.

As announced in Budget 2014, it has become necessary to increase the prescription charge due to the very difficult and challenging economic environment which requires the Government to achieve additional savings in health expenditure with €666 million of savings targeted in 2014. The increase in prescription charges will account for €43 million of this target. The Government is committed to achieving these savings while protecting front line services to the most vulnerable to the greatest extent possible.

Medical card holders will be required to pay a €2.50 charge per item for medicines and other prescription items supplied to them by community pharmacists, subject to a cap of €25 per month for each person or family. Prescription charges do not apply to children in the care of the HSE or to methadone supplied to patients participating in the Methadone Treatment Scheme. These new rates will be effective from 1 December 2013.

The revenue raised from the prescription charge for each of the years since its introduction is as follows:

2010 - €4.167 million

2011 - €27.604 million

2012 - €29.70 million

Question No. 248 answered with Question No. 236.

Health Services Provision

Questions (249)

Dessie Ellis

Question:

249. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Health his plans to administer warfarin from local health clinics in view of the cost and inconvenience to persons having to travel to and from hospitals. [45439/13]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

Warfarin is a medication to prevent at risk patients developing cardiovascular events due to blood clotting. In most cases, warfarin is prescribed to patients in the first instance in a hospital setting. Thereafter, the international normalized ratio (INR), i.e. taking of blood samples in order to titrate patients' warfarin dosages, is monitored on an ongoing basis in either a hospital setting or in general practice.

The HSE is currently considering plans to move much of the INR activity from hospitals to primary care settings, where appropriate and subject to appropriate clinical governance arrangements being in place.